Hunter Brazier and Chase Lammi are back together again.
After playing as linemates for almost the entirety of the 2017-18 hockey season as members of the Sudbury Minor Midget Wolves, the local 2002 birthdates went their separate ways, sort of, last year.
Both ended up suiting up in the NOJHL, Brazier as a member of the French River Rapids (24G/17A), Lammi with the Espanola Express (12G/22A). And within one week of each other, at the end of June, both were traded to the Kemptville 73's of the CCHL (Central Canada Hockey League).
"I think having Hunter there will help me with moving away from home," said Lammi. "We're billeting together. I think it will help having a buddy there, making it more comfortable that first week, before we meet the new players and get to know the whole team. I grew up playing hockey with him all my life, so it will be nice having him around."
Though the pair might possess somewhat contrasting skill sets on the ice, the reality is that both are smooth-skating forwards and both were looking for very specific opportunities by signing on with NOJHL teams that were unlikely to top the standings last year.
"I wanted to go to a team where I knew that I would get ice time, where I knew I would be able to develop," said Brazier, a ninth round pick of the Oshawa Generals in 2018, who has decided not to return for a second OHL training camp, focusing his attention entirely on the NCAA/OUA university alternative.
"I didn't want to go to a team where my minutes would get cut down, and I'm not on the PK, not on the power play. I wanted to go to a team where I knew I would be able to fight for some ice time."
Just 17 years old and still eligible for midget hockey this year, Brazier noted a much greater attention to detail in making the jump from minor hockey to the junior-aged loop.
"What I found out is that you've got to be more patient with the puck," said the long-time member of the Nickel City Sons.
"I learned that throughout the year. You have to make the right play, every single time, instead of rushing the pass or turning it over. In the defensive zone, for instance, you just want to get the puck out, chip it out to the neutral, so that you can reset - but you don't want the icing. That's huge. You don't want to turn over the puck at the blue lines. You learn that in junior a lot."
Though the Rapids won just 14 of 56 games, Brazier did manage to finish fourth in team scoring, just four points back of Sudbury Wolves' prospect and Thunder Bay native Levi Siau.
"I was happy with my development," said Brazier. "I feel like my decision-making improved a lot this year."
For Lammi, the Kemptville option had been mentioned for a few months now, almost from the time that he made his verbal commitment to the St. Lawrence Saints (NCAA) in Canton, New York back in February or March.
"I think it's a really good opportunity," he said. "I think we have a young, fast team, which is hopefully an opportunity to get lots of ice time, lots of development. The coach is Jason York, who played in the NHL, so he'll have plenty of things to teach us. And it's close to St. Lawrence, so I'll be able to talk to the coaches there and see what I need to improve on."
Making the move from centre to wing last year with the Express, Lammi is ready, if needed, to shift back this fall.
"I'm not too sure yet what my role will be," he said. "I might be going back to centre in Kemptville.
"It might mean that I have to play more defensively, be in my own end more often. But I think it's a good thing, for sure. At the next level, wherever they need you to play, you have to play. So if you're able to play any forward position and you're comfortable at it, then that's an advantage you have."
That ability to adapt might also come in handy in a far more general sense, as the lads shift from the NOJHL to the CCHL.
"The NOJHL is definitely a really big, strong league," said Lammi. "There's a lot of big men in there. As a 16 year old, when you're smaller, you have to battle harder to fight against them. I think this league will be a lot of fast players, so you've got to keep up with the league. I think both leagues have their advantages and disadvantages."
Brazier and Lammi will leave later this week for Kemptville, with the 73's opening their 2019-2020 season on Sept. 6, as the Nepean Raiders pay a visit to the North Grenville Municipal Centre.